Your development is ready for sales, and you need widespread marketing to reach as many potential buyers as possible, followed by a flawless sales process. What is the best way – a dedicated sales team, or an estate agency?
To be clear about their different functions, a sales team or rep works directly for your company, usually from within the property itself, while an estate agent is self-employed and works as an independent contractor, with multiple other clients that they represent.
Large developers with multiple properties, like the Amdec Group (Melrose Arch, Harbour Arch, the Yacht Club), often use both a sales team and an estate agency, but in the case of smaller developers, a contracted estate agency may be sufficient.
THE CASE FOR ESTATE AGENTS
Cost saving is the biggest plus. ‘Using an agency eliminates massive marketing costs, as it has an existing database of clients and marketing platforms, and also, HR management is done by that agency,’ says Pamela Naidu of ID Realty, specialising in premium luxury real estate in Durban.
Estate agents are also experienced in navigating what can be a long and complex process.
Lanice Steward, head of training for Pam Golding Properties, says: “The purchase or sale of a property is around a six-month process and can be complex and uniquely nuanced, involving hundreds of small steps that include expertise in a number of different disciplines from area knowledge to valuations, marketing, finance, legal and conveyancing. And no one sale is ever exactly the same as another – there are many different dynamics and needs and also numerous obstacles that can occur with each negotiation, as well as with the transfer process.”
In development sales, using a single estate agency is better than using several, she explains: ‘Having a dedicated agent achieves much better results than having it overexposed and available through all or several agencies.’ Not only is this a security risk, it can also lead to double commission claims, and buyers thinking the seller is desperate to sell – which could lead to lower offers. Finally, good estate agents are trained and up to date with regard to the latest legislation such as the National Credit Act, the Consumer Protection Act and FICA. They can explain the clauses of any offer to purchase, particularly the purchase price, method of payment, date of occupation, occupational rental, contractual obligations (for example, pest and electrical certificates), obtaining a mortgage bond, as well as a breakdown of all the costs involved in acquiring a property, such as transfer duty, VAT, transfer fees, fees regarding registration of mortgage bonds and obtaining rates and levy clearance certificates.
THE CASE FOR SALES TEAMS
Like any product or service using agents, it can be difficult to control the agent’s activities and to make sure they continually work hard on your behalf. Also, an agent might not sell your product or service in the way that you would like, or properly understand your property and its brand.
In the case of mixed-use property developments, a sales team also has a wide-lens, in-depth knowledge of the diverse offerings on site. Steyn City is an example. ‘With a complex development and lifestyle resort such as Steyn City, it is crucial that our sales team builds and develops product knowledge,’ says Giuseppe Plumari, CEO of Steyn City Properties.
‘[They] need to fully comprehend our offering and have intimate product knowledge to share with our buyers. This requires training and long-term commitment, which can only be achieved with a dedicated team of people. We are not simply selling real estate, we’re selling a lifestyle,’ he adds.
Property developers entering international markets can particularly benefit from a sales team that understands how to sell the brand abroad, and are familiar with the cross-border questions that typically arise.
This is why top-end estate developments like Val de Vie in the Western Cape, or Steyn City in Gauteng, have an on-site sales office, backed up by interactive online platforms that prospective buyers can use to communicate their needs.
Regardless of whether your development sales strategy involves an internally appointed sales team or an externally mandated agency or a combination thereof, an efficent online sales management system is crucial to the smooth administration and management of properties through the process of transfer, as well as to the collaboration and communication between the various stakeholders, says Deon Basson, CEO of REDi.
Key factors to consider would include:
- One central information database of up-to-date development and sales data.
- Controlled user rights, permissions and access levels based on roles (developer, administrators, agents, attorneys, mortgage originators, banks, etc).
- Configurable process flows and business rules (sales, legal, financial).
- Automated notifications based on preset business rules and key milestones in the sales/transfer process.
- Instant communications between the various stakeholders.
- Accurate, real-time reporting on every aspect of the development process.
The benefits and administrative efficiencies of such a system as well as the resultant cost savings to the developer cannot be overstated, says Basson.